If the Playoffs Started Today: New Challengers Approach

We're officially in scoreboard watching territory. Here are the most recent matchups, probabilities and happenings around the NHL as the postseason nears.

Last night was huge for several teams around the league. Several more teams clinched spots, and the playoff picture even looks slightly different than it did at this time yesterday.

Here are the postseason matchups if the playoffs started today, along with the probability these matchup actually happen. Probabilities courtesy of hockeystats.ca, and are current as of publish time:

Eastern Conference

Montreal Canadiens (104) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (95) - 10.0%

Tampa Bay Lightning (104) vs. Detroit Red Wings (95) - 5%

New York Rangers (107) vs. Boston Bruins (95) - 41.8%

New York Islanders (98) vs. Washington Capitals (97) - 23.1%

Western Conference

Nashville Predators (103) vs. Minnesota Wild (95) - 44.8%

St. Louis Blues (101) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (100) - 53.2%

Anaheim Ducks (107) vs. Los Angeles Kings (90) - 17.0%

Vancouver Canucks (95) vs. Calgary Flames (91) - 50.3%

Bubble Teams

Winnipeg Jets (90) - 63.2% chance to make playoffs.

Ottawa Senators (90) - 29.2% chance to make playoffs.

Florida Panthers (87) - 1% chance to make playoffs.

San Jose Sharks (85) - 1.7% chance to make playoffs.

Recent Happenings

The Blues and the Hawks become the most recent team to punch their ticket to the dance, with wins over Calgary and Vancouver, respectively.

The New York Rangers also clinched the Metropolitan division by defeating the Wild. Who saw that coming?

Washington jumped past both Pittsburgh and the Islanders to take the second spot in the Metro. Given how far ahead the Isles and Pens were a couple of months ago, that's pretty impressive. They may yet avoid another match up with the Rangers for the time being.

Detroit and Winnipeg are both in the hot seat right now. The Jets were bumped out of contention last night, and Boston pulled even with the Wings. It isn't very likely that Detroit misses the playoffs altogether (though it could happen) but after being firmly positioned in that Atlantic spot for so long, ending the season as a Wild Card to face Montreal or the Rangers would be awful. For them at least...

Games to Watch

Almost every game has playoff implications in some way, shape or form, but these are the ones that should grab your attention:

Chicago @ Buffalo - 6 p.m.: Yikes. You can pray for a miracle, but no one would fault you for penciling in another two points for the Hawks. If Chicago wins, it would be their fourth in a row, but they have a tough schedule of Central teams ahead to end the season.

St. Louis @ Dallas - 7:30 p.m.: The undermanned Blues put up an impressive win against Calgary last night. Dallas has been idle since Monday, when they lost to the very same Flames. A Blues win puts them even with the Preds in points and games remaining, at least until Saturday. Preds need the Stars to lay a smackdown on the blue notes tonight, then roll over and die tomorrow. Here's hoping...

The Central

The Blues and Hawks inch a little closer to Nashville in the standings, as you say above. Wins by both of them last night didn't help, and wins by both tonight will put even more pressure on Nashville. If that happens, the Preds almost can't lose any of their games the rest of the way. This one's going to be a photo finish, ya'll.